Academic journal article International Forum of Teaching and Studies

Drawings and Drums: Incorporating Semiotic Activities to Enlist Learning

Academic journal article International Forum of Teaching and Studies

Drawings and Drums: Incorporating Semiotic Activities to Enlist Learning

Article excerpt

[Abstract]

This study was concerned with how international electronic students could move from spatial and psychological "silos" to more interactive collaborative learning environments. The researchers sought to learn if students, through certain embedded iconic representations and interactivities, could move toward community goals and venture out of their isolation into electronic learning (e-learning) communities that were not bound by geographic or national borders. Instructional designs for electronic courses that contained cultural traditions and narratives were examined to see if familiar representations could have general or universal resonance among multiple nations and cultures when included in the design of on-line courses. The study could contribute to the body of research on e-learning and instructional design, particularly with respect to whether semiotic tools can resonate with students and help them to become more successful in content retention and in collaborative e-learning communities.

[Keywords] Semiotics; e-learning; content retention; e-learning environments; student-centered learning; international students

Introduction

The traditional industrial educational system, symbolized by neat rows of desks and students sitting and obediently listening as the teacher pour knowledge into their heads, has been repeated in classrooms all over the world. But this scene is rapidly disappearing as the traditional delivery systems of learning are increasingly supplemented by electronic educational delivery systems. These courses differ from the traditional educational systems in more than delivery because they also tout student-centered learning, not the top-down, instructor-delivered instruction. This study was concerned with how electronic learning (elearning) could enlist international students and help them migrate out of the spatial and psychological "silos" prevalent in on-line-learning to more interactive collaborative e-learning environments. The researchers sought to learn if on-line students, through certain embedded iconic representations and interactivities, could begin to feel comfortable enough in on-line environments to venture out of their isolation and into electronic learning (e-learning) with students and communities not bound by any borders.

Instructional designs for electronic courses that contained cultural traditions and narratives were examined using qualitative methodologies to see if familiar representations could have general or universal resonance among the multi-national students in the on-line courses studied for this research. The research also included a review of electronic interactivities in the selected on-line courses to see if these interactivities helped to focus the learners' understanding of the course materials.

Review of the Literature

This review includes a review of communications and constructivist learning theories; semiotics, including texts, signs, icons, metaphors and narratives; tool mediation; electronic (online) learning; on-line students' self-regulation and the isolation of on-line courses; electronic interactivities; and, engaging students to become active participants and collaborators in electronic communities.

Communications Theories

According to Marshall McLuhan (1964), new communication systems are actually a composite of the innovation and the old communication system; the old systems are rebuilt, using all of the communication tools from the last medium integrated into the new system. So, to assure this new evolving communication system is effective, the old knowledge systems must converge with the new (McLuhan, 1976; McLuhan, 1968; Neil, 1993).

Theories of communication are usually found in the academic disciplines of the social sciences (Mass Communications) and in business (Marketing Communications). Very little research has been conducted related to communications and education, yet communications take place daily among faculty, students, administrators and staff, so it would seem that some understanding of communications theories could provide valuable insights into how humans relate to each other. …

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